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The IAB recently called for feedback on a newly released best practice guide for site tagging. This is a new area of comment for the IAB but a much needed one. They are aiming to form this guide to eliminate risk, improve site performance and protect site owners and advertisers from any privacy and security issues that can arise from poor tag management.

Tagging is a fundamental element of the heavily data-driven interactive advertising ecosystem without which it would not continue to thrive,” said Steve Sullivan, Vice President, Advertising Technology, IAB. “To better meet the needs of publishers, advertisers, marketers and consumers, we must not only take account of the ongoing value of site tagging, but more fully understand the operational challenges presented by site tagging’s increasingly prolific use.”

We reached out to a number of industry professionals at tag management companies, including ones in our Tag Management Buyer's Guide, to see what they thought of these new moves by the IAB and what changes they think should be made to the best practices guide.

IAB has released their site tagging best practice guide for public comment. Do you think this is a needed guide and why?

Ali Behnam, President of Tealium

We think the IAB guide is a good first step in helping educate the market on what a site tag is. The biggest challenge, however, is around how companies can better leverage tags to monetize their site data, and we see that as a good next step in the education process. We look forward to participating in those discussions with the IAB and others. 

James Sandoval, SVP & Managing Director, EMEA, BrightTag

The future of marketing communications will be fueled by data; if marketers are not capturing and activating data well today, they will not be well-positioned for the future. Proper site tagging can help solve for this.

Joseph Lines, Business Development Manager, QuBit

The guide is pertinent and timely. Tags have reached a tipping point in the online industry and our recent research concluded established websites have on average over 25 tags deployed. Site tagging is the data foundation for any organization operating online - get it wrong and the house collapses and you end up with poor data integrity. Inline with the abundance of tags spreading across the web, the Tag Management product category is maturing at a rapid rate signified when Google recently entered the market. 

Given the saturation of tags being used across the web and the maturity of the product category to manage them, independent best practice advice to support businesses and individuals in both understanding and implementing tags on websites should be welcomed by the entire industry.

Jon Baron, CEO of TagMan

We hope that this guide will be a go-to resource for professionals in marketing, analytics, technology, and product to improve internal processes, data quality, site performance, and marketing agility. As more solutions move towards tagging vs on-premise solutions, and marketers continue to tag data off the site for analysis (such as digital advertising data), the need for standards will become increasingly important and is, in fact, overdue.

Did the IAB get it right so far? How will it affect your relationship with your clients if this goes into effect? Will you have to make any changes to your technology to comply?

James Sandoval, SVP & Managing Director, EMEA, BrightTag

The IAB clearly recognizes the importance of these issues and wants to increase awareness by sharing best practices. BrightTag is very much in support of this IAB initiative to improve the pace of innovation in the digital marketing industry.

Scott Meyer, Evidon

We think the IAB has it right. The guide doesn't affect our relationships and we don't have to change how we do things or how our tech works. Our technology, actually, helps solve some of the problems identified in the paper.

We help companies identify tracking they otherwise can't see and how it got there, so they ensure that audience data is being collected only by authorized companies, that their pages aren't being bogged down by superfluous tracking code, and that they understand everything that have to disclose to consumers.

Des Cahill, VP Marketing, Ensighten

The IAB Draft report on Site Tagging Best Practices is a helpful document for educating website owners on the challenges of managing the proliferation of tags. Tag management is a complex topic, and we at Ensighten spend considerable time helping our clients adopt best practices. Since our tag management platform encompasses all possible needs of a marketer or publisher, we would not have to make any changes to comply with the IAB’s recommendations.

Joseph Lines, Business Development Manager, QuBit

We are impressed with the depth and breadth of the guide, and welcome the positive impact it will have on existing client relationships and future prospects if this goes into effect. As a Tag Management vendor we have been providing and developing technical and business best practice.

Reviewing the document we are happy the majority of the guidelines are aligned with our own best practice, so we see little, if any, impact on the relationships with our clients expect for the recognition we have been trying to educate the market and provide open standards for the longest.

Wolfgang Allisat, CRO of TagMan

We believe this guide provides a strong foundation for industry-wide best practices and standardization. We believe it will help strengthen our relationship with clients and partners by ensuring that we are all working off the same playbook, so to speak, and share an accepted view around risks and mitigation techniques.

The IAB have listed a series of challenges and risks with using tags. Are these real risks to site owners using tag management systems? 

Scott Meyer, Evidon

There are clear and real risks associated with using tags. Tag managers are supposed to help marketers and publishers manage some of these risks. Evidon, for instance, works in collaboration with leading tag managers to provide additional solutions for a more comprehensive view of tracking.

Des Cahill, VP Marketing, Ensighten

For high-traffic websites, there are important technical considerations when implementing and running a tag management system. The IAB report covers some important ones - data leakage, IT resource allocation, site performance, and consumer privacy — but I think the top challenge that tags present site owners is missing from the list.

We refer to it as the “Marketing Agility Deficiency” — a term that describes the often cumbersome and slow process of deploying or managing digital marketing services onto a website. This process deprives marketers of the ability to A/B-test ad networks, maximize the value of optimization tools, quickly deploy analytics on new landing pages, etc.

All these services require tags, and the immense proliferation of tags has made it difficult for digital marketers to be as responsive and innovative as they need to be. Addressing this challenge is one of the main reasons that companies buy our real-time tag management solutions.

James Sandoval, SVP & Managing Director, EMEA, BrightTag

The more third-party vendors’ tag code that is placed directly in the pages of websites i.e. directly in the path of the customer experience, the less control organizations have over that code and the data transferred through that code. This is directly tied to consumer privacy compliance. Making sure sites are tagged in such a way that help to more effectively protect consumer privacy is increasingly a top business requirement.

The time required to deploy and activate new digital media, marketing and analytics services causes unnecessary delays in achieving business outcomes. Proper site tagging is critically important to help move the online marketing industry forward. 

Joseph Lines, Business Development Manager, QuBit

The risk of data leakage is in theory real, however, we have never had to deal with the issue of data leakage at any client of ours. Outside of the obvious security and controls that should be in place across all your vendors and your own technology stack, it is important to make use of a standardised data layer which is secure and only allows tags access to the right data.

Tag Management helps developers manage tags in a similar as Content Management Systems help marketers with content - essentially it brings all the tools you need together in one place.

Operational strain on the other hand, is a very real issue with the majority of our clients. Marketers want to get new tags on the site, but need the developers help to do so. With tag management systems, developers can make the changes quickly, or in some cases, marketers or analysts can make the changes themselves. Tag Management becomes free of the development cycle.

Ron Brien, SVP of Global Marketing, TagMan

The risks tags present in terms of consumer privacy, data leakage, site performance, and operational strain are very real to site owners. In addition, these risks culminate in another risk – an opportunity loss in acquisition and user experience efforts. The aim of a tag management system should be to reduce or eliminate these risks as much as possible, through both technology, transparency, and better workflow management.

How have you dealt with privacy issues?

Des Cahill, VP Marketing, Ensighten

This is an extremely important issue for our customers. In some cases we discover “legacy” tags that remain deployed on a customer’s website, even though the contract with the tag vendor (e.g., a re-targeting vendor) has expired. That re-targeting network is still dropping cookies on visitors and collecting data because there is no central audit or control over website tags.

This type of data collection issue can be addressed through a website tag audit during the course of a tag management solution installation and monitored on an ongoing basis through the tag management system.

Ali Behnam, President of Tealium

A number of tag management system providers, including Tealium, have full privacy capabilities integrated into their solution. This enables organizations to adjust to changing global privacy laws. This includes full compliance with "Do Not Track," a privacy widget that allows consumers to opt in or out of different tags, and the ability to enforce geo-based tag delivery rules.

IAB have suggested removing Document.write and redundant utility code from tag markup. How will this affect site tagging?  

Des Cahill, VP Marketing, Ensighten

This makes sense. It will force the IT resources who do the actual site tagging (if there is no tag management system) to have a more disciplined approach to their tagging methodology. If the tagging is being done via a tag management system, then tagging standards are much more easily enforced, even for business users performing their own tag deployments or edits.  

Joseph Lines, Business Development Manager, QuBit

This is one of the most important recommendations in the document and will ensure going forward a much better tagging process for the entire industry if followed. It is an archaic and lazy JavaScript method which has the potential to break sites. We have been working closely with our clients vendors to assist them in rewriting their code so it doesn’t contain the document.write method.

Ali Behnam, President of Tealium

We fully support this, and have actually been pitching this for four years. This recommendation will improve site performance by making sure that tags no longer block web pages from loading.

Scott Meyer, Evidon

Some companies will need to engage in development work to make this happen, but performance benefits make the effort worth it in the long run.

Ave Wrigley, CTO of TagMan

This should become an industry standard to help reduce the problems that have been associated with the proliferation of tags by making it easier to maintain site performance standards. The performance gains and reduction in risk are well worth the development effort it may initially require.

This report is also meant to serve as a go-to checklist for technology practitioners in product and engineering. How complete is the list and will it help bridge the gap between tag management companies and marketers? 

Des Cahill, VP Marketing, Ensighten

The report is a good start and is helpful in the ongoing efforts to evangelize and educate the broader market about the advantages (across the entire organization) of tag management. We don’t see a gap between TMS companies and marketers — evidence of this is the very strong growth in TMS adoption across enterprises globally.

Maggie Neuwald, VP of Solutions Marketing, Tagman

This report is a good start. By agreeing on best practices and identifying areas that can greatly ease the process and minimize risk, marketers and solution providers should be able to more easily and quickly implement solutions on the site while maintaining the high quality assurance standard site engineering and IT teams require. It should also improve data quality, which is imperative for marketers and analysts to make smart decisions that drive the business forward.

What would you suggest the IAB add or change in the Site Tagging Best Practices Guide?

Ali Behnam, President of Tealium

We would like to see more best practices around the actual process of site tagging, as well as best practices for managing tags across all customer touch points -- traditional web sites, mobile web sites, mobile apps, online video, etc.

Joseph Lines, Business Development Manager, QuBit

We feel that the IAB should expand section ‘2.3.1 Data Layer’ as this principle is central to site tagging and data integrity.

Des Cahill, VP Marketing, Ensighten

I would add that the tag management challenge is not limited to websites. Companies are dealing with a radical change in consumer digital interaction with their brands - mobile Web, mobile apps, video, social, kiosks, tablets, smartphones, etc. We, along with our customers, take a more holistic view of digital tag management.

We are enabling our customers to collect data and manage tags in mobile apps, YouTube videos, social sites, in-store kiosks. This trend toward off-site digital interaction is only going to grow in coming years and smart companies are getting out ahead of the curve through a broader consideration of tag management across all these digital touch-points.

Heather Taylor

Published 3 December, 2012 by Heather Taylor

Heather Taylor is the Editorial Director for Econsultancy US. You can follow her on Twitter, Google+ or Pinterest.

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